You must have experienced excruciating pain, muscle spasms, and contractions after a game of Tennis, or after running long distances. This muscle spasm is commonly known as Charley horse. The other names for this condition include, 'dead leg', 'granddaddy', 'chopper', 'corked thigh', or 'corky', etc., according to different country languages. This condition is very commonly observed in athletes, as it occurs after carrying out a strenuous exercise.
Charley horse commonly occurs in leg and foot. It happens when the muscles suddenly and forcefully contract, leading to spasms. These spasms are commonly seen in muscles that are crossing two joints like the calf muscles, hamstrings, and the quadriceps. Generally, these leg cramps do not last more than a minute. However, in some cases, they may last for several minutes. Many patients get leg cramps while sleeping, and this causes them to wake up in pain.
To prevent this problem, you need to stay hydrated at all times. You should drink eight glasses of water every day, even one before you retire for the day. If you are exercising or getting into a strenuous physical activity, it is important that you drink plenty of water or fluids to stay hydrated.
You should stretch yourself regularly as it helps in prevention of muscle cramps and relaxation of your muscle fibers. It is a good habit to make sure one carries out post-exercise workouts that help in prevention of leg cramps. It is always smart, to stretch before you sleep as it will help prevent nocturnal Charley horse. Also, prevent any sudden activity or increase in exercise program. Do not indulge in heavy exercise before sleeping. This may lead to leg and muscle cramps at night.
If you are suffering from a leg cramp, the only thought that runs through your mind is how to get rid of it? Well, you need to try to stretch the muscle affected. When you experience the leg cramps in your lower leg, it may be easier to straighten up the leg, and pull the foot back really slowly. You need to slowly stretch your leg, and increase the pull on the back of your leg steadily. Do not pump your foot, or you will suffer from even more intense pain. You can even try to give your legs a gentle massage after the cramps subside. Use a heating pad or warm shower to help your muscles soothe, and get back to their normal state.
When you experience Charley horse symptoms, you should immediately cease activity, and try to stretch the affected leg. You should gently massage the leg as you continue to stretch. You can apply a hot pad for sometime, but do not overdo it. The heat may dilate your blood vessels, making the leg cramps worse. You can try cold compression like ice over the muscles after the spasms subside. If you feel your muscles are still sore, you can visit a doctor. The doctor may prescribe you some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. In severe leg cramps, anti-spasm medications will be prescribed.
In case of an irritated nerve, one may experience recurring leg cramps. In such a situation, the treatment for recurring spasms includes visit to a physical therapist and in extreme cases, surgery. The main cause of Charley horse in athletes is dehydration due to excessive physical activity. In such a case, the treatment is drinking plain water or sports drink to stay hydrated, and ease the spasms.
The simplest way to relieve this problem is stretching the muscles. You need to straighten the leg, and pull the toes upwards, towards the knee. Slowly massaging and elevating your legs to help them relax is a good idea. Elevation helps in getting the blood flow towards the heart from your limbs. And as mentioned above, drink more water to prevent the muscle strain.
You can try a home remedy for Charley horse to get relief from cramps. If you are experiencing cramps, you can soak your legs in a tub of warm water added with Epsom salts. Keep your legs soaked in the warm tub for about 15 to 20 minutes. You should also rub the muscle affected with Charley horse from the start of your muscle till the end of it. Avoid rubbing across the affected muscles. You can even try drinking a glass of water added with a teaspoon of salt. This is an effective remedy for leg cramps.
Include plenty of vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium in your diet. This helps in prevention of Charley horse, as deficiency of these vitamins and minerals may cause leg cramps. If even after taking all the preventive measures, you still experience cramps, it is best to visit a doctor for consultation.